England’s Carl Mason will this week hope to continue his recent dominance of the Bad Ragaz PGA Seniors Open, having taken the title in three of the past four seasons.
Mason, who recently became the most successful player in European Senior Tour history when he surpassed compatriot Tommy Horton’s record of 23 titles with his victory at the OKI Open de España Senior by Cleveland Golf/Srixon, first won the Bad Ragaz PGA Seniors Open by six strokes in 2007.
The following year, he became the second player after Argentina’s Horacio Carbonetti to successfully defend the title when he held off Scotland’s Bill Longmuir by two strokes courtesy of a closing round of 65.
Mason again returned to the winners’ enclosure last year, when his 11 under par aggregate winning score took his cumulative total to a remarkable 42 under par for his three victories.
Such is his dominance of the €250,000 event, potentially the biggest barrier Mason has to overcome as he goes in search of a fourth title is the niggling back injury which forced him to withdraw from last week’s Van Lanschot Senior Open.
John Bland readily acknowledges that the defending champion, if fully fit, will again be the man to beat this week, but the South African is confident of mounting a strong challenge of his own having broken Mason’s run of victories in 2009.
However, Bland’s return to Golf Club Bad Ragaz, in Switzerland, will be tinged with sadness following the death of the man he beat in the play-off two years ago, American Bob Boyd, who passed away in February of this year following a lengthy battle with leukaemia.
He said: “It’s since turned out to be a very sad win, because of Bob passing away. I remember holing a good putt on the 18th in the play-off to win, and he turned round to me and said: “I’ll get you next week”. That’s just the kind of guy Bob was – a real gentleman. He was obviously disappointed not to have won, but at the same time he was genuinely pleased for me. You couldn’t wish to meet a nicer guy and a nicer family, and I’m sure I’ll be thinking of him when I’m out on the course this week, so hopefully I can put in a performance he would’ve been proud of.
“It’ll be an extra special week, but it’s always a week everyone looks forward to anyway, because the course is always in great condition, the weather is usually nice and the members do a fantastic job of looking after us. It’s not the longest course in the world but it can be very tight off the tee, with trees lining most of the fairways. So it can definitely catch you out – you can walk off a hole with a double bogey and wonder how on earth that just happened! But if I can keep it straight and get the putter working for me, hopefully I can have a good go at winning there again.”
Bland’s fellow former winners Carbonetti and Spaniard Juan Quiros are also in the field, along with American Jerry Bruner, who will be bidding to go one better this year having finished runner-up behind Mason 12 months ago.
With just three weeks left until The Senior Open Championship takes place, the likes of former Ryder Cup-winning Captain Sam Torrance of Scotland and 2010 Order of Merit winner Boonchu Ruangkit of Thailand will use this week’s event as their final warm-up, before going in search of their maiden Senior Major title at Walton Heath Golf Club.